SPL - Ledley heads Celtic top

Wed, 28 Dec 21:50:00 2011

Joe Ledley's header was enough for Celtic to beat Rangers 1-0 at Parkhead to leapfrog their Old Firm rivals and go top of the Scottish Premier League.

FOOTBALL Celtic's Joe Ledley celebrates scoring against Rangers during their Scottish Premier League 'Old Firm' derby match at Celtic Park stadium in Glasgow, Scotland December 28, 2011 - 0

Welsh midfielder Ledley rose to head home Charlie Mulgrew's 52nd-minute corner as the home side moved two points clear of Rangers and overcame what was a 15-point deficit on November 5.

Atrocious conditions made it hard work for both teams as high winds and driving rain battered Celtic Park and - as expected on their home turf - it was Celtic who dominated the first-half possession.

But against the run of play, it was the visitors who enjoyed the best chance of the match and should have gone ahead in the sixth minute. The lively Sone Aluku moved into space on the right to whip in a dangerous cross, finding Lee Wallace totally free on the back post. His header hit the inside of the post before being clawed back out by Fraser Forster although replays suggested the ball may have crossed the line.

Moments later, it was Celtic who had a goal ruled out. Allan McGregor could only palm a fierce drive back into the path of Georgios Samaras, who neatly dinked it over McGregor. The keeper was relieved to see the linesman’s flag raised.

If Rangers bemoaned the referee's assistant for that first close chance, they only had themselves to blame next as Carlos Bocanegra fired over from Nikica Jelavic’s knockdown when it looked easier to score.

It then became a case of Rangers soaking up intense Celtic pressure, McGregor again relieved to survive after flapping unconvincingly at Beram Kayal’s deflected cross. And McGregor was relieved to see James Forrest blast high and wide just before the break after saving from Hooper.

The second half continued in much the same vein with Celtic on the offensive, Samaras denied a clear-cut chance thanks to a fine last-ditch tackle from Kyle Bartley.

Forrest, continuing to wreak havoc down the left, then saw a rasping shot tipped over by McGregor and from the resulting corner the home side finally got the breakthrough, Ledley heading in unmarked at the back post under no pressure from any Rangers defenders.

Despite being the team needing inspiration, Rangers lacked any penetration up front. The introduction of David Healy and Maurice Edu for Lee McCulloch and Wallace did nothing to fire Ally McCoist's side and even the prolific Nikica Jelavic, who had scored five in seven against Celtic previously, reduced to long range pot-shots and two desperately optimistic acrobatic efforts.

A bad-tempered finish saw two yellow cards apiece for the sides and the only sour note for Celtic on the night was an injury worry for the influential Kayal, the midfielder coming worse off in a clash with McCulloch.

The victory is Celtic's ninth in a row and seals a 17-point turnaround in less than two months.

Fraser Masefield / Eurosport

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